Is deadline day disappointment a step towards stability at Spurs?
13:37 02 September 2014
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Tottenham correspondent Ben Pearce reflects on Spurs’ summer transfer business after the window closed last night.
At 11pm on Monday night, the general feeling among Tottenham fans seemed to be one of frustration and disappointment.
As the clock ticked down, with Radamel Falcao nearing his move to Manchester United and Arsenal closing in on Danny Welbeck, there was little to excite the Spurs fans.
In fact, there were more losses than gains. Benjamin Stambouli’s expected arrival from Montpellier was confirmed, but fans’ favourites Lewis Holtby and Sandro departed - the former on a year-long loan to Hamburg with a view to a permanent transfer and the latter being sold to QPR - while Zeki Fryers left for Crystal Palace.
One Tottenham supporter tweeted: “We never seem to buy big on deadline day and just watch others!”
This backs up the view that #deadlineday has become football’s version of Christmas Day – surprises and shiny new presents for grown-ups.
By that analogy, Spurs fans unwrapped a gift that they already knew they were getting and were then told they had too many toys and had to throw two of their favourites out to make space in the cupboard.
That understandably caused some tears, but the summer shopping season is more than just 24 hours long, and to properly inspect Tottenham’s window you have to open the curtains and widen the perspective.
Mauricio Pochettino has become Spurs’ third head coach in the space of a year and the club are crying out for stability – at the top and in the squad.
The Lilywhites reinvested Gareth Bale’s fee on seven players last year – many of them the exciting flair players that generally cause excitement, such as Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and, to a lesser extent perhaps, Nacer Chadli.
No-one needs to be reminded of what followed last season and, having changed their manager, it was never likely that Spurs would overhaul their playing staff again – nor should they have done.
One of the most impressive things about Pochettino’s time with Southampton was his development of many of the players, and he is clearly being asked to bring about similar improvements with the current players at Spurs.
New personnel were needed in certain areas though, mainly in defence. Danny Rose needed competition at left-back and Jan Vertonghen needed to spend less time as a back-up in that position.
Both of those issues were solved when Ben Davies arrived, and Rose has immediately identified improvements in his own game, enjoying a fine game against QPR and and getting his first England call-up last week.
“Since we’ve been back, over the eight weeks or so, I reckon I’ve got a lot better defensively and tactically,” he said.
In the centre, club stalwart Michael Dawson had become a fading force and, harsh as it seemed, the captain had to be replaced. In has come Eric Dier, who already looks like a fine prospect and a great bargain at £4m, as well as Federico Fazio, who won the Europa League with Sevilla last season.
If anything, Spurs now have too many centre-backs with Vertonghen, Younes Kaboul, Fazio, Vlad Chiriches and Dier – and it remains to be seen whether Pochettino can keep them all happy.
With that said, Dier now appears to be Spurs’ first-choice right-back, in the continued absence of Kyle Walker, having won the spot from the usual replacement, Kyle Naughton.
That position was another area of concern at the end of last season, with a lack of strength in depth, and the signing of USA international DeAndre Yedlin – who will not arrive until next summer – did little to solve it.
Tottenham knew Dier was versatile and had played at right-back before, but they have arguably been fortunate that the 20-year-old has adapted to the Premier League so quickly.
He showed youthful naivety in conceding the penalty against Liverpool on Sunday, but the right-back spot looks less worrying than it did on the opening day when Naughton started at West Ham – and was promptly sent off.
Michel Vorm gives Spurs a quality long-term No2, given Brad Friedel’s advancing years – and a viable No1 if the club cannot hang on to Hugo Lloris.
Having found himself out of favour under both Tim Sherwood and Pochettino, the injury-prone Sandro has been replaced by Montpellier’s Stambouli in central midfield, after the Lilywhites missed out on Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin, while Jake Livermore completed a permanent move to Hull early in the summer.
There was rarely an issue with Sandro’s defensive work, when he was fit, but the last two Spurs bosses appear to have felt that the Brazilian did not offer enough in possession.
Schneiderlin, for example, is adept at both sides of the game - with and without the ball - and it remains to be seen whether Stambouli will be able to emulate his fellow Frenchman in the Premier League. Etienne Capoue has already showed signs of being more proactive on the ball.
In the advanced positions, there were rumours about PSV Eindhoven’s Memphis Depay but it always seemed likely that Pochettino would be asked to work with, and improve, what he already had in his countryman Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon.
While new signings were needed at the back, Spurs invested heavily in the creative department last summer. The question is, and always was, whether those players will be better this season under their new head coach.
The same applies to other members of the squad who under-performed last season – most of them have been given more time.
On the other hand, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Holtby have been deemed surplus to requirements, possibly partly because of Harry Kane’s progress. It remains to be seen how much they will be missed, but Sigurdsson has made a fine start to life at Swansea.
A lot will depend on the success of the selection of players who operate behind the forward – and they were all ineffective against Liverpool on Sunday so there is plenty to improve on.
Meanwhile, if Tottenham have made one grave error in the transfer window, it is their failure to sign a similar forward to Emmanuel Adebayor, for competition and cover.
With the inconsistent Roberto Soldado ill-suited to playing as a lone frontman and 21-year-old Kane still developing, Spurs are horribly reliant on Adebayor maintaining form, fitness and motivation.
Swansea’s Wilfried Bony looked like the perfect man to boost Pochettino’s selection of forwards and keep Adebayor on his toes, but the big Ivorian remains in Wales.
That is a surprise but the fact that there were more departures than arrivals at the end of Tottenham’s window was not. After all, Pochettino said at the start of August that he had “too many players”.
In the end, Spurs signed six players – including the absent Yedlin – and sold seven, with Holtby additionally departing on loan, adding up to a net profit of around £6.5m.
That will anger some fans, who will rightly feel that the first team does not look a great deal stronger – a fact that was highlighted by Sunday’s 3-0 home defeat against Liverpool.
That unfortunately-timed setback surely exacerbated the frustration and disillusionment that many fans felt on deadline day.
However, patience has been sadly lacking at White Hart Lane in recent years, and the absence of last-minute panic buys and the commitment to give the majority of last season’s squad more time might just represent a step towards that elusive stability at White Hart Lane, while the extra cash should help to fund the vital new stadium.
And, with two recruits yet to make their first appearances in the Premier League, there could yet be some exciting surprises ahead.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs